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July 31, 2013

Primus Mootry: The power of love can be expressed in many words

“God is love.”

We are so inundated by bad news, natural or man-made destruction, and daily acts of brutality and hatred that we seldom consider either the meaning or the power of love. In this time of great confusion and contradiction, the subject is worth considering.

Back in the days when I was a high school teacher, I would have my students read some of the common, but profound wisdom from Max Ehrman’s words for life, “Desiderata.” One of the passages, advice about love, always evoked a lively discussion.

The particular passage read:

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

The discussion that followed involved the meaning of certain words and, eventually, the meaning of the entire selection

As to words, the ones that were commonly misunderstood or unknown to students were “feign,” “cynical,” “aridity,” “disenchantment” and “perennial.” So we would take the time to find dictionary definitions of each of these words

“Feign” meant to pretend; “cynical” meant distrusting; “aridity” meant dull or unexciting; “disenchantment” meant to lose interest in something; “perennial” meant forever. With those definitions in mind, we were then able to discuss the entire passage. To begin, I asked questions:

What is love? Why should we not pretend to love someone? Why should we not be distrustful of the existence and power of love? Can real love be dull and unexciting? Is it possible to love someone forever? For the most part, my students were highly thoughtful in their answers to each of these important questions.

As their teacher, I was able to toss in some concepts of love as defined in the Bible, in philosophy, and in psychology. For example, my students were interested in the four types of love described in Greek philosophy: agape, phileo, storge and eros.

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